The PLEA: Crosswalk Cred

The PLEA: Crosswalk Cred

Walkable Communities

There are all sorts of communities in Saskatchewan. Regardless if it is a town, city, First Nation reserve, rural municipality, or anything else, every community has powers to promote walkability through laws, regulations, and public policies.

Of course, each community is unique. For example, while it may be a good idea for a rural municipality to create a nature walking trail, it would be impractical for an RM to build sidewalks in the countryside. Urban areas, on the other hand, have many more good reasons to encourage walkability. Because it is us as citizens who elect governments, to a certain degree we are all responsible for our community’s design.

According to Canada Walks, a Green Communities of Canada initiative for promoting walking and livable communities, there are several elements essential to making a community walkable. The following pages look at these concepts and consider ways that citizens, governments, and laws can make a difference. What will become apparent as you read through these examples is how concepts that support walkability are interconnected and dependent upon one another.

Density/Land Use and Access to Amenities

Canada Walks defines medium density as an area with a variety of housing types. If a medium-density area is also mixed-use, it will provide a combination of residential living, stores, schools, restaurants, and other services. By increasing an area’s density, designing it for mixed use, and ensuring access to public transit, walkability is increased.

Saskatoon’s 22nd Street and Pedestrian-Friendly Design

While it may be preferable to have medium housing density near stores and services, when these neighbourhoods are adjacent to busy roads, problems can develop. Such is the case with 22nd Street West in Saskatoon, a major east-west thoroughfare. Several blocks of 22nd Street are lined with low-rise apartment buildings. Many other blocks have stores and restaurants. This design has contributed to 22nd Street having twice as many vehicle-pedestrian collisions as comparable streets in Saskatoon. In fact, in the past four years there have been 82 such collisions on 22nd Street, including one fatality.

To resolve this problem, in 2011 a two-kilometre long, 2.5 metre high fence along the centre of 22nd Street was suggested. A similar fence can be found along several blocks of 2nd Avenue West in Prince Albert, and according to a June 2011 CTV report this fence has been effective in eliminating jaywalking.

The 22nd Street fence was panned by University of Saskatchewan researchers. They compared the area to similar two-kilometre long stretches of 8th Street East and 20th Street West. 8th Street had nine marked, pedestrian-activated crosswalks, and 20th Street had 14 marked crosswalks. By contrast, the stretch of 22nd Street had only five crosswalks. This included an eight-block stretch without a single marked crosswalk. The research also pointed out that lighting on 22nd Street was inadequate for drivers to see people crossing the street.

In light of the research, a report to city council, and citizen feedback, the city decided to take a different approach. The fence would be a last resort, and instead pedestrian crossing lights were installed at two intersections to help facilitate foot traffic.


  1. Why is it important that lawmakers look at research and listen to citizens before making decisions?
  2. What does Saskatoon’s experience with jaywalking on 22nd Street tell us about community design?


Canada Walks suggests that pedestrian infrastructure must be appropriate for people of all ages and abilities, including those with limited mobility. Examples include sidewalks wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and strollers, curb cuts for sidewalks and trails, and crosswalks allowing ample time for children and those with mobility challenges to cross safely.

Making New York City Walkable for Seniors

Facing the reality that senior citizens constituted 40% of New York City’s pedestrian fatalities yet seniors were only 12% of the city’s population, in 2008 New York City began its Safe Streets for Seniors program. The city’s Department of Transportation identified 25 neighbourhoods where there was a high number of pedestrian/vehicle accidents and dense population of senior citizens.

With these neighbourhoods identified, the city then examined issues facing senior pedestrians and drivers alike. This included visibility, signage, crosswalk times, road widths, and drivers’ compliance with traffic and pedestrian signals. Soon, problems such as crosswalk lights not being long enough to facilitate the average walking speeds of seniors were identified.

With this knowledge, the City of New York began to extend crossing times at crosswalks, alter curbs and build mid-street refuges to shorten street crossing distances, and implement traffic calming techniques. These changes are helping to make streets safer not just for seniors, but for all pedestrians.


  1. It is often said that the mark of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. How did New York City demonstrate this concept?
  2. The changes to New York City streets were spurred in part by Transportation Alternatives, a bicycling, walking, and public transportation advocacy group. Why are non-governmental groups such as this an important part of our society?


Canada Walks has said that good connectivity occurs when sidewalks, pathways, and trails connect one area to another in a neighbourhood and when adjoining neighbourhoods are connected to each other as well as to amenities in a direct manner.

Saskatoon’s Walking Paths and Crime

Like most cities, Saskatoon has several walkways that connect parks, trails, and streets. These walkways help shorten distances between destinations. Despite their practicality, the city has closed nearly 60 walkways since 2005. These closures were largely the results of citizen complaints that the walkways were plagued with vandalism and other illegal activity.

The process required to close a walkway is not simple. City policy states that when citizens apply to have a walkway closed due to illegal activity, the walkway needs to be monitored for a year by the police. If the police find the walkway’s issues to be unmanageable, a community meeting will be held. At this meeting, neighbourhood residents will be informed of the walkway issues, neighbourhood patrols will be encouraged, and options to improve the safety of the walkway will be discussed.

It is only after the community meeting that a closure can proceed or be averted. A decision will be made based on feedback from the meeting.


  1. Do you think closing a walkway due to loitering and illegal activity will reduce crime or just relocate the problem? Would neighbourhood patrols help improve safety and increase the sense of community?
  2. When walkways are closed, the integrity of a neighbourhood’s connectivity is damaged. Why is it important that such decisions are made thoughtfully and in consultation with citizens and authorities?


Canada Walks believes that a walkable community is attractive to travel through on foot and invites further exploration. The aesthetics that make a community walkable include landscaping, shade trees, lighting, public art, availability of benches, public washrooms, shelter, attractive buildings and public spaces such as plazas and parks. Cleanliness and a lack of graffiti are also important.

Regina City Square and Vehicle Traffic

In 2012, the City of Regina completed its revitalisation of Regina’s City Square. This area in the city’s centre includes a historical central park set aside by planners in 1883, a pedestrian mall, and a public plaza. According to the city, “the first priority of the City Square project is to re-shape 12th Avenue as a new, pedestrian-friendly space.” The plan included rebuilding 12th Avenue in a manner that was more aesthetically pleasing and better-integrated into the City Square. According to the original plan, 12th Avenue would continue to be open to two-way vehicle traffic.

The reconstructed plaza was open to pedestrians before 12th Avenue was ready to handle vehicle traffic. People began to get used to the idea of the blocks of 12th Avenue that bordered the park being free of cars. In fact, a public consultation revealed a 50-50 split of opinion on whether or not the street should be entirely closed off to vehicles. When Regina city council was presented with the option to close 12th Avenue to vehicles, they instead opted for a compromise. Council decided to allow a single lane of westbound traffic to flow through the plaza with a speed limit of 20 kilometres per hour.


  1. Was the city council’s decision to allow a single lane of traffic in an otherwise pedestrian-exclusive area a reasonable compromise that reflected the needs of both pedestrians and drivers?
  2. Although the City of Regina aesthetically improved the City Square, it did come at a cost of $13 million. Are investments in parks and walking paths a sound use of public money?

Safety and Walking Routes

Canada Walks says that key aspects of safety along walking routes include separation from the road, traffic calming features to control speed of vehicles, clear and well-maintained sidewalks, well-marked crossings, adequate lighting, and crossing signals designed with the abilities of the most vulnerable in mind.

Jaywalking in Prince Albert

The Traffic Safety Act prohibits pedestrians crossing at a controlled intersection when the light is red. But it is up to individual communities to create jaywalking bylaws that apply mid-street. The City of Prince Albert has chosen not to create a bylaw banning jaywalking. Instead, the city has a bylaw that prohibits pedestrians walking in the path of a vehicle when it is unsafe. This means if a street is clear of vehicle traffic and the pedestrian is not at a controlled intersection, it is lawful to jaywalk.

In December 2012, the Prince Albert Daily Herald asked the Mayor of Prince Albert about creating a bylaw banning jaywalking. He said he was more concerned with vehicles not yielding to pedestrians at crosswalks. The Mayor added that to improve pedestrian safety, the city planned to put up more warning signs, create better-marked crosswalks, and look at building traffic calming devices in 2013.


  1. Instead of completely banning citizens from jaywalking, the City of Prince Albert is instead asking them to act responsibly when crossing a roadway mid-street. Do you think this is a good or bad approach to creating laws?
  2. Would Prince Albert’s citizens be safer if the city banned jaywalking, or if the city improved pedestrian crossings?